Monday, October 27, 2008

Why I've Changed My Mind About Visiting New Zealand

I've often thought about visiting New Zealand. Small country, beautiful scenery, very different attitudes about life, and they speak English! What a terrific combination!

However after a recent visit to Total Wine on Saturday, I may have completely changed my mind. I'm not at all sure what those folks eat down there, but I'd assumed that there would be a lot of lamb and seafood involved. Apparently, however, the economic bust has affected them pretty deeply. Witness the wine they're making there:

Can you see that label? Here's a closeup of the "Americanized" version of it:

That's right. The folks in NZ are actually marketing a sauvignon blanc named "Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush". The back label extols the virtue of this wine by saying that it has an overwhelming taste of gooseberries "with just a hint of cat".

It's true that in wine circles, the flavor of sauvignon blanc is often likened to gooseberries which, by the way, tend toward the sour and acidic and aren't very popular. Some reviewers even mention "cat urine" when describing the flavors of certain sauvignon blancs. This raises the obvious question on which I'd prefer not to speculate here. Still, I have to believe that only in New Zealand would these features of a wine be considered selling points.

I'm sure the good folks in New Zealand are laughing their collective Kiwi arses off at the idea that Americans are not willing to have the word "pee" on some consumable product, but they are willing to turn it into a nonsense word and then pay $8.00/bottle for it.

I fear that this may lead to even more outrageous schemes on the part of the good folks in NZ to foist off stuff that most people would be repulsed by. I'm waiting to find "Sheepdog Turd from a Golf Course Sand Trap" packed up in a box somewhere for $12.95 (although I suppose the American version would be "Thurd"). I'm sure it will take the country by storm.

So if the New Zealanders are clever enough to pack up pet waste products, ship them across the Pacific, and make a profit on them, I shudder to think about what they might feed me in a restaurant down there when they realize I'm from this country.

Stupid American. Serve him the "Dust Bunnies from Under the Toilet Tank" and tell him it's a local delicacy. You should be able to get $29.95 for it easily.

Tell him he gets a free glass of Cat's Pee with it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Welcome to the Target Demographic

Several years ago, a friend of mine actually called me on the phone, upset that a Led Zeppelin song was being used to sell Cadillacs:

I told him then, "Welcome to the target demographic. You're in your mid to late 40s now, they assume you have disposable income, and this is how they're gonna get your attention. It's just going to get worse."

At one point, I sort of thought I had arrived when advertisers started using songs from my era, like "Smoke On The Water":

Or "Thick As A Brick":

Or even "Instant Karma":

I mean, at least they were advertising enjoyable things like cars, restaurants, and sneakers (although I suspect Mr. Lennon is still spinning in his grave)

Speaking of spinning in his grave, I really didn't even mind it too much when the Volkswagen folks appropriated the late lamented Nick Drake for one of their commercials:

But the Times They Are A'Changing. Now the songs of my youth are being used to sell blood glucose monitoring systems. This is the target demographic I've entered. I sure hope the members of Three Dog Night and/or the estate of B.W. Stevenson, this song's writer, are getting royalties from this:

And this? This is the travesty that actually inspired me to post this. Every advertiser who has ever used a rock song in an advertisement should fall down on their faces and beg forgiveness from The Youngbloods for this use of "Get Together" (you may have to turn up your volume if you want to hear this, although I can't imagine why you would):

I mean... come on. The entire hippie movement has been reduced to an animated disposable diaper commercial culminating in what is an obvious allusion to Woodstock? This is sadder than sad. There once was a time when our artists weren't sellouts. I only hope that the members of AC/DC had no control over the deal that is causing their first album in 8 years to be sold only at Wal-Mart. I don't want to wish any bad things on AC/DC, they've worked hard for a long time, but I hope they don't sell a single disc at Wal-Mart, and that this will prevent this sort of deal with the devil from being made in the future with any other rock group.

If only we could harness the energy of all the dead rock stars who are now spinning in their graves, we could completely eliminate our dependency on foreign oil.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Here We Go Again

I've always heard about the price of fame, but I never realized what a burden it must be. Thanks to Bilbo of Bilbo's Random Thought Collection (why does it seem like I'm always linking to Bilbo? I've never even met the man, assuming he's a man.), it appears that I've received the coveted "Superior Scribbler Award". I say it's coveted because it's the first award I've been presented since I started doing this. Note that I am completely ignoring the fact that this is a blatant pyramid setup and that soon every blogger on earth will be displaying this award.

Being of something of a literal bent, I wonder why "Scribbler" was included in a blog award, since scribbling is not actually involved. Why not call it the "Tremendous Typist Award", the "Big Blogger Award", or the "Say! Some People Will Read Pretty Much Anything Award"?

Anyway, here it is:

Alas, heavy hangs the head that wears the crown. You can't just bask in the glory that is this award. Oh no. You gotta do stuff or you can't, in good conscience, display said award. Here's the list from the originating web site:

1) Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends (see below).
2). Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award (see above).
3) Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award (see current).
4) Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
5) Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog (see 6).
6) See 1.
Thank you, Bilbo. I appreciate the award and your very kind words about my blog. Now stop wasting time on these silly blog memes and decide who you're voting for.

At the risk of insulting anyone who might not appreciate being referred to as one of my "Bloggy Friends", I would like to pass this award on to the following deserving people:

Fiona at "travelin through". She makes me laugh, her blog is easy to read, and, most importantly, she recently tagged me for something and paybacks are hell. I would've included Green Canary in this list for the same reason, but Bilbo beat me to it.

J.M. Tewkesbury at "The Chronicles of Tewkesbury". Passionate, eloquent, and frequently humorous, I thoroughly enjoy the things she posts. She is currently heavily into the politics thing, not that I blame her, but among the reasons I look forward to the end of the political silly season is the hope that J.M. will be able to return to the more pedestrian, day-to-day writing about her life that attracted me to her blog in the first place.

Herb at "Herb of DC". He's the only person I've ever read whose description of tying a shoelace made me laugh out loud.

Livitluvit at "Live It, Love It". Funny. Always a good read, despite the fact that every time I look at her blog I get a Led Zeppelin earworm. She's away in Costa Rica right now, and I'm hoping that when she gets back she'll be so mellowed out that she won't rake me over the coals for doing this to her.

Shannon at "Disaffected Scanner Jockey". I rarely read one of her posts without at least a grin, and usually there's a laugh or two. I only wish that I could write like her. I'll be surprised if she follows through on this because she's quite the busy person with an extremely popular blog, but I think she deserves it.

So there, Bilbo. I did it, despite the fact that you said I'd probably ignore the rules. As we've each mentioned in recent posts, we sometimes (civilly) disagree on a variety of subjects, but I'm very happy to say that we're able to put aside our differences and treat each other as mature, reasonable, thoughtful people. With that in mind, I'll close with this: "Nyeah".

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Looks Like I'm It


I hope I don't hurt anyone's feelings. That is not my intent, ever. Everything I'm about to say is the result of my own hangups, which others had no way of knowing. Please don't take anything personally.

I have in the past expressed my views on being "tagged". It basically leaves me with two choices: 1) play along, or 2) take a chance on being viewed as some sort of humorless or aloof wallflower who doesn't know how to have a good time. There's also the fact that on those occasions that I've tried to write posts just to write them, when I wasn't particularly inspired, I've been very unsatisfied with the results. I've written several that you've never seen. Oh yeah, the crap that you read here from time to time is the "good stuff". Sometimes I can't believe it either.

While I very much appreciate the fact that someone (or in this case two people) thought enough of me to tag me for this latest meme, my hippie tendencies balk at this sort of (perhaps self-imposed) coercion. Please believe that I have nothing but respect for the two people who tagged me, the vivacious and always readable Green Canary, and one of my latest finds, Fiona (aka Rodger (that's an inside joke)), who can compress many laughs into short, insightful posts and/or comments.

Here are the rules of "The Rule of 7":
1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Now given my waffling nature about this whole thing, one might imagine that I'd be hard pressed to say that I have some personal issues with this and then go tag 7 other people. Thanks to my pal and sometimes philosophical foe Bilbo, I will not be the first one to say that I'll play, but really don't know of 7 other bloggers that I can tag. Lacochran, Fiona, and Canary have taken pretty much all the bloggers I follow. I didn't realize that our circle was so tight until I realized that so many had already been tagged, leaving me with few options. Again, maybe it's my own limitations that I have to blame.

In that spirit, I will try to come up with 7 things about myself that won't bore you to tears, but I'll leave the tagging up to others. In the end, my own narcissism wins out.

7 Facts About Gilahi:

1. In 1975, I was the #2-ranked epee fencer in the southeastern U.S. I took this distinction at the Southeastern Sectional Championship held at Florida State University. I haven't held a blade in many years.

2. I am an ordained person. That's right, despite my currrent feelings about any organized religion and my extreme liberal tendencies, there once was a time when I was heavily into the church. I studied long and hard before being elected by my then congregation and ordained as a Presbyterian elder. I believe that an ordination like this is for life, so despite the fact that I haven't been inside a church since 1988, I'm still registered somewhere as a spiritual leader. Yes, you do have every right to be afraid.

3. I have equinophobia (or hippophobia), a fear of horses (sorry, Fiona). I think they're beautiful creatures and nothing is more graceful than a horse galloping in the wind, as long as I can see it from a distance. When I was a child, the area that I lived in was still rural enough that people could own some livestock. I was playing baseball in a field one day when everyone started yelling at me to watch out. I looked up just in time to see that one of my neighbors had lost control of her horse and it was bearing down on me at a full gallop. My instinct was to lash out and smack said horse on the snout with my baseball glove. This had two effects. First, it startled the horse to the point that my neighbor was able to get it back under control. Second, it left me with a lifelong fear of those huge, uncontrollable, sharp-hooved, vicious, man-eating animals.

4. As a teenager in the early '70s, I met and chatted with Mark David Chapman who, in 1980, shot and killed John Lennon. I had no idea. Honest.

5. I've never been to Spain, but I kinda like the music. I've never been to Heaven, but I've been to Oklahoma. Should that count as two?

6. I like dill pickles and french fries. Together. Don't ask me why, but if I have fries and a pickle on the plate, I will save the pickle for last and enjoy it with any fries that are left after the main course has been devoured.

7. I am an artist that has sold many pieces, had work put on T-shirts (which sold very well), and have even had work exhibited in The Torpedo Factory in Alexandria on a few occasions. Much of the work that decorates my home is my own.

At this point, I quote Bilbo:

I won't tag anyone else for this, but if you're reading and want to take a stab at it, be my guest. Just let me know so I can see what you said.

Thanks for your time. Thanks for reading my blog. And, honestly, Canary and Fiona, thanks for tagging me.

Another Incredible Voice of My Generation Lost

I was very saddened to read this morning of the death of Levi Stubbs. I suspect that any of you who don't recognize the name would still recognize the voice.

He was one of the biggest voices in '60s and '70s Motown. He also lent his considerable bass pipes to the voice of Audrey II in the movie "Little Shop of Horrors".

Although his various illnesses have prevented him from performing since 2000, it's just always very sad to me when another of those who have brought me so much joy for so many years passes away.

Thanks for all the memories, Mr. Stubbs. You will be missed.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Encuentre Roberto

Esto es Roberto. Sus amigos le llaman "Bob". Bob es una tortuga de mar. El tiene menos que un dia.

Meet Roberto.

This is Roberto. His friends call him "Bob". Bob is a sea turtle. He is less than a day old.

I decided to try to open up this entry in Bob's native language, in case he ever gets a chance to read it. His English was a little iffy when I knew him.

Bob was my best friend for the 8 minutes or so that I got to hold him before releasing him into the Pacific Ocean. In that 8 minutes, I think we bonded very closely. Just look at him waving at the camera:

What a ham.

In the wild, Bob's chances of making it to adulthood are about 100 to 1 against. We were told that thanks to release programs like this one, the odds are improved to something like 10 to 1. Not great, but better than the lottery or anything you'll get in Vegas.

As I've mentioned, I've been fortunate enough to have many opportunities to work with wild animals. On those occasions that I've actually gotten to hold a baby animal, I am always struck by how incredibly strong they are. We were instructed to hold the turtles with two fingers on the sides of their shells, as I'm doing with my right hand, above. When those little flippers pushed back against my fingers, it was all I could do to hang on to him. That's why I have my other hand cupped underneath him.

It was sunset, because sea turtles move toward the setting sun when they hatch. There were very specific instructions for handling and releasing them. We had to "wash" our hands in the beach sand, because sea turtles use the smell of the sand to know where they came from. We were to take three steps forward, place the turtle on the sand, and immediately take three steps back. This was to avoid accidentally stepping on any of the little critters that might happen to circle around before hitting the water. In 10 years, they'll come back to this same beach to lay eggs. Well, Bob won't, but his sweetheart will. (Just between you and me, I don't actually know if the turtle I was holding was a Roberto or a Roberta, but given that he pounded back a couple of Pacificos before diving into the water, I tend to think he was male. Maybe a college student.)

10 years. They're cold-blooded and they have a 10-year plan. Sure makes me think. I only hope that I'm able to haul myself up onto a beach in 10 years.

It was great. I felt really good about it. Quite frankly, I teared up a little. I know that the odds are only about 1 in 10 that Bob is anything other than fish poop at this point, but I prefer to think that if I could get back to that same beach 10 years from the time I plunked him onto the sand, I'd see Bob crawling back out and waving at me. We could reminisce, pop a few cold Pacificos (no lime, Bob doesn't care for lime with his cerveza), maybe a little Tequila Crema (Bob has something of a sweet tooth) and catch up on all the things we've been doing since we last saw each other. Bob's good that way. Who knows? Maybe his English or my Spanish will have improved by then.

The last picture is the last I saw of Bob just before a wave came and took him away. For a turtle, he was moving pretty darned fast. Ah, youth.

Adios, Bob. Vaya con Dios.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Doing My Civic Duty - Part 2*

They took 237 eight by ten color glossy photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one to be used as evidence against us.
--Arlo Guthrie, "Alice's Restaurant Masacree"

I just spent six long days in the jailhouse
for the crime of having no dough,
and now I'm back out on the street
for the crime of having nowhere to go.
--The Band

Yesterday, I posted my experience with being impaneled on a jury. If you read it, you know that it involved a lot of waiting around and many repetitions of the word "crap".

If you think that might have been a dull, boring experience for me, then obviously you've never been on a jury and had to listen to lawyers speak. You know those great lines from the movies?
You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!

You're out of order! You're out of order! You're out of order!

It just doesn't work that way. You know all those Perry Mason moments where he spins around and pins the blame on the person you least suspect? Doesn't happen. Watching grass grow is more exciting, believe me.

It goes like this: There's a judge, a prosecuting attorney, a defense attorney, a witness, a court clerk and a bailiff standing as far away from the action as she can get.

PA: I have here a 574-page document that basically restates everything that's been said in this trial up to this point. I'd like to enter it into evidence.
[The bailiff ambles across the room, takes the document from the attorney, walks the three steps to the court clerk who puts a little sticker on it and hands it back to the bailiff. The bailiff then takes one step to the right to hand it to the judge, who's sitting two feet away from the court clerk, and then ambles back across the room.]
Judge: Entered into evidence as exhibit 9.
PA: I'd like the witness to look at exhibit 9 please.
[The bailiff ambles back across the room, takes the exhibit from the court clerk, walks three steps to her left, hands it to the witness, and then ambles back across the room.]
PA: Ms. Hapfenflufel, do you recognize the exhibit?
Witness: Yes.
PA: How would you describe the exhibit?
W: It appears to be a 574-page document that basically restates everything that's been said in this trial up to this point.
PA: So you would say that this is a document?
W: Yes.
PA: And how long would you say the document is?
W: [Flipping to the last page] 574 pages.
PA: So to be clear, you're saying that this is a document consisting of 574 pages.
W: Yes.
PA: OK, let's read the document starting at page 1, right at the top, where the words begin. Do you see the words?
W: Yes.
PA: What is the first letter you see in the first word?
W: It's a "T".
PA: And is there anything special about that "T"?
W: It's a capital "T".
PA: And what does a capital usually mean?
DA: I object to the use of the term "usually", since a capital can mean the beginning of a sentence, an initial, part of an acronym, or a symbol on the periodic table of elements.
Judge: Please restate the question.
PA: Ms. Hapfenflufel, what do you believe the capitalization indicates in this particular case?
W: I think it's the start of a sentence.
PA: OK, let's move on to the next letter. What is it?
W: It's an "h".
PA: And is it capitalized?
W: No.
PA: OK, so now what's the third letter?
W: It's an "e".
PA: And is that the end of the first word?
W: Yes, I believe so.
PA: Why do you believe that's the end of the first word?
W: Because the next character is a space.
PA: And a space indicates what?
W: It's a separator between words.
PA: So the first word is what?
W: "The".
PA: And what does "the" mean?
W: I believe it's a definite article indicating exclusiveness.
DA: Objection to the use of the suffix "-ness".
PA: Could you restate that please?
W: I believe it's a definite article indicating exclusivity.
PA: OK, let's move on to the next word....

And so it goes. For two. Full. Days.

We had a doctor as an expert witness that said the plaintiff was injured. We had a doctor as an expert witness that said the plaintiff was not injured. We had a psychologist that said the plaintiff was depressed. The plaintiff's mom said the plaintiff didn't used to be depressed. We had photos. Lots of photos. We had diagrams. We had receipts. We had a DVD to watch of a deposition. We heard about lost wages. Interrupted PhD programs. There were tears, and not just from the jury who had to sit through all this.

Then it was all over. The judge gave us our rules, which basically were: "You're on your own. We won't answer any questions so don't bother asking. Go into your little cell and don't come out without a verdict. See ya."

This particular case had nothing to do with guilt or innocence. The defendant had already admitted negligence. It was up to us to come with an amount to award. The prosecution was asking for an award in the 6-figure area. The defense indicated that the award should be in the lower 4-digit area. We deliberated for 3 and a half hours. "I think we should give the plaintiff a billion dollars." Did you hear the same case I did? "I think the plaintiff should give us ten dollars each." Did you hear the same case I did? As 5:00 approaches, though, it's amazing how compromising you become. The only thing we could eventually all agree on was that the plaintiff deserved something. Slips of paper were passed around the table, we each wrote down the amount we thought the plaintiff was due, we added it all up, divided by 7, and ended up awarding a very, very strange number.

So the way I've got it figured, if I can find some way to donate my $60 juror compensation to the big bailout, the government will only be on the hook for $699,999,999,940.00. Who's with me?

Oh, and if you get called for jury duty, take a book. Take several.

* Apologies if this showed up in some Google readers multiple times in various forms. I was entering a ^B to do bold followed by a capital P, and I kept hitting ^P which, as you types may know, is "Publish". Why the hell did they create a hotkey for "Publish"?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Doing My Civic Duty - Part 1

I just spent six long days in the jailhouse
for the crime of having no dough,
and now I'm back out on the street
for the crime of having nowhere to go.
--The Band

...the Sixth Amendment states that if you are accused of a crime, you have the right to a trial before a jury of people too stupid to get out of jury duty.
--Dave Barry

As mentioned recently, I've just spent two days on jury duty. Since my posts have a tendency to become rambling and disconnected, reflecting the actual activity in my brain, I've decided to split the experience into two posts. Today's post will cover the events leading up to the actual jury selection and trial.

First, you get a summons. It's threatening. You must report for jury duty or you'll be sitting on the other side of the witness box. You have to call a phone number after 5:00 PM the night before you're supposed to report to see if your group number has to show up. Isn't that convenient? You can't plan anything. You have to tell your boss that you may or may not show up for work the next day. Meetings scheduled? Need to take your kid to ball practice? Tough toenails, Harry. You're officially on hold until after 5:00.

So you call and you gotta go. Crap. Now to find the Fairfax District Court, which is located in beautiful Old Town Fairfax. Just because you're showing up doesn't mean you'll actually get on a jury, so maybe it won't be so bad.

Aside: Why does every town in Virginia have an "Old Town" section? I haven't actually found Old Town Pentagon City yet, but I'm sure it must exist.

I have a horrible sense of direction. I've been known to find myself going the wrong direction on a street, pull into a side street in order to turn around, and then continue on in the same wrong direction on the original street. Because of this, I rely heavily on my state atlases, and in the past few years I've relied extremely heavily on Yahoo and Google Maps. The summons tells me that the court is on Chain Bridge Road and that there's public parking "across the street" on Page Road. So I map both places. Much to my chagrin, the maps are extremely different, considering that one facility is "across the street" from the other. So what do I do? I take 'em both. May as well get lost twice. I also leave about two hours early because I will get lost. I promise.

The last direction on the map to the courthouse tells me to turn left onto Chain Bridge Road from VA-236. I can do that. Except that I can't. There's a big NO LEFT TURN sign on VA-236 at Chain Bridge Road. What do I do now? If you've ever driven through Old Town Fairfax, you'll know that it's an exercise in guesswork. (Even as I was leaving to come home, I saw a sign on Chain Bridge that said, "VA-236 East - Second Light". What it didn't tell me was which direction to turn at the second light. I had a 50/50 shot at it. Do you think I got it right? If you said yes, then you haven't been following along. I HAVE NO SENSE OF DIRECTION.) So I'm lost. I'm close, but I'm lost, and my mind is chanting contemptofcourtcontemptofcourtcontemptofcourt because I just KNOW that I'm going to be late and they're going to be a bunch of humorless bastards.

Anyway, eventually small signs that say "Judicial Square", which sounds right to me, get me to a parking garage that I think may be the one on Page Road that the instructions tell me about. There's a nice sheriff parked nearby, so I confirm with him that I'm in the right place.

I'm actually early, so I wait.

What I failed to ask the sheriff is where I go now. "Across the street" is the blank wall of a building. So I go wandering around behind juvenile detention facilities and police stations, waiting for the sirens and searchlights to pick me out. About a half hour later, I find that if I had turned left out of the parking lot instead of right (of course), then I would have encountered one of those nice directories with a "You Are Here" spot on it.

Having ascertained the general direction I need to walk, I proceed to find the Fairfax District Court which, by the way, neither faces nor is actually located on Chain Bridge Road, as nearly as I can tell. Happy to have been so resourceful thus far, I go inside where a uniformed deputy screams, "WE DON'T OPEN UNTIL 8:00!!! YOU'LL HAVE TO WAIT OUTSIDE!!" So I back slowly out of the door, stroll down the street, find a convenience store, and get a cup of coffee which by this time I'm pretty desperate for.

And I wait.

At 8:00, I go inside where three different people ask me if my cell phone has a camera in it (it doesn't). And that's before I go through an airport-style security screening where I have to empty all my pockets and take off my belt. Not sure why the belt thing is important, but there are approximately 137 deputies standing behind the three lines of security portals, all yelling intermittently that we can't have knives, weapons, cameras, laptops with cameras, cell phones with cameras; there are three lines please; remove your belt; empty your pockets into one the white baskets; do the hokey-pokey and you turn yourself around; that's what it's all about.

Having cleared that hurdle, I now follow the signs to the Jury Assembly Room on the 5th floor.

And I wait.

Eventually the doors open and about 200 of us file in, get our jury badges, get our parking validated, delousing and cavity search. OK, I made those last two up, but it sure seemed like that was the way it was headed. Find a seat.

And I wait.

They showed us a neat little film in which some actor has all sorts of questions about jury duty interspersed with some deer-in-the-headlights judge answering them. They understand that it's an inconvenience, but we're lucky that we live in such a great country where we can send our fellow citizens to jail after they've committed all of our faces to memory. The actor concludes by telling us how it actually turned out to be pretty interesting and he felt good about doing his civic duty.


And I wait.

Some time later, a line of brown-uniformed deputies comes into the jury room with lists of names. They all have exactly the same spiel: "When I call your name, please answer 'here'. I apologize in advance if I mispronounce your name, and I promise that I will." This got a chuckle from the first one. The next 5? Not so much.

This is the point at which you start praying to the Universe and whatever god or gods you have ever heard of that they don't call your name.

Bailiff: Er.... Tome Suh My Tha?
Voice: Here.
Bailiff: How do you pronounce that?
Voice: Tom Smith
Bailiff: Thank you. Er.... Sway Jo Ness?
Voice: Here.
Bailiff: How do you pronounce that?
Voice: Sue Jones.
Bailiff: Thank you. Er... El Vice Pre Slay?

And so it goes. You make it past the first bailiff, the second, the third, you're considering how much money to contribute to the Druids since that's the one that seemed to work for you, you open your eyes and realize that there are probably only about 10 people left in the room, and there's still one bailiff to go. I said it before and I'll say it again: Crap.

Bailiff: Jy Lay Hie?
Me: Crap! I mean here!

So I and 13 of my fellow civic-minded cattle file out to the assigned courtroom.

And I wait.

Eventually we are led into the courtroom where the judge asks us questions, followed by the attorneys asking us questions. This, I figure, is my last good chance at not actually getting on a jury.

"Yes, your honor, I fully believe that anyone who's even accused of jaywalking should fry like a pork chop."

They eventually call seven names and have them move to another section of the room. YES! It worked! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Then the judge points to the other group and tells them that they can go back to the Jury Assembly Room, and congratulates the seven of us on being impaneled as a jury.


[Stay tuned for tomorrow's exciting conclusion!]

Monday, October 6, 2008

I'm Sorta Depressed

I've posted before about not feeling particularly funny, and once again I'm feeling a bit low these days. Don't mean to bring you down, and if you're feeling particularly chipper, maybe you should just move on to the next blog in your reader list.

First, my 401(k) is simply melting away.

I don't know why. It never did anything to anybody. It's not like it was threatening a scarecrow with a burning broom or something. I feed it regularly. It should be really happy. It's like that plant you keep watering, but turns brown and droops despite all the care you try to give it. This leads me to feel like I may be the one without a brain in the above picture.

If that picture represents peoples' savings, then I suppose this one must be the mortgage companies.

Yep, all these cheap houses that can't even stand up to a little wind are falling all over the mortgage lenders, and ruby slippers are currently selling for $700 billion.

Just look at the latest bill issued by the US Government:

We used to actually have dreams of possibly being able to retire early. We've been tracking our net worth as best we can for years. The first couple of years looked like we might be right on track. The last couple of years have sort of leveled out. The past few weeks look pretty bleak. I thought that I might be able to enjoy retirement starting as a relatively young man. I'm afraid that now I may be working at least a few more years. My hair's alread gray and I'm wearing bifocals.

Next, there's still a lot of work left to do on the house, as I've been chronicling from time to time here. There's painting to be done in several rooms, new carpet to install, new furniture to get in place, and new window treatments. We went to the paint store yesterday and they were out of ceiling white. This is something akin to McDonald's being out of Happy Meals or Victoria's Secret being out of bras. How does one run out of ceiling white? (Aside: Why are so many of my similes in terms of food and sex? That word is "similes" not "smiles", although most of my smiles are in terms of food and sex as well. Maybe I just answered my own question.)

Since I live here, I see the work to be done every time I walk through a room. (By the way, I may post soon about the joys of recaulking tubs and showers, which we've done recently. Mildew is special. At least that project is completed, unlike the other two we've started. Small steps. Teeny, tiny, wee, almost infitesimal steps.) Current plans are to do a second coat of ceiling white (assuming we can find any) next weekend, patch up some crown molding, and then we'll call the decorator and schedule carpet installation.

Third, someone who recently worked on my house tells me that this absolutely must be the next big project:

Lovely. A new roof. Seems that some of the shingles on the current roof, while looking just fine from the ground, are actually so thin at this point that you can read a newspaper through them. It's just fortunate for me that nobody reads newspapers any more, or I'd be in real trouble.

Fourth, I've been summoned for jury duty.

I have mixed feelings about this. I don't have to go to work and Fairfax County will pay me the princely sum of $30.00 per diem, but I do have to trudge down there in the morning, find the place, park, and then sit and read for 8 hours. I hope. I sure hope I don't get on some multi-day trial. They won't even let me take a knife with me like Henry Fonda did. This is why people don't register to vote, folks.

Fifth, winter is upon us.

I hate winter. I'm currently loving the highs in the lower 70's, but there's already a nip in the air in the mornings, our heat has come on once or twice, and it's just a matter of time before it's below 50 degrees, which is too cold for me. Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm a real pansy. Screw you. I don't like cold weather and any delay in my retirement means I have to put up with a few more years of it.

Finally, there is a significant number of people out there who will, next month, despite every definition of reason that I can come up with, vote this way:

Sadly, their vote counts just the same as mine. Look at that button again. One of these people is extremely happy to be on this ticket with their running mate. The other one has a sort of "what just happened here?" look. Even in this still photo, you sort of get the "Omigod what have I done?" thought process alongside the "I'm not too sure what's going on, but I'm darn happy about it" thought process.

So there it is. My short-term future involves juries, home improvement, and new roofs; my longer-term future may have irrevocably changed over the past month; and I don't understand the voters in this country at all.

If you've read this far, I hope this hasn't depressed you in any way. Look at like this, things pretty much have to get better, right?

Oh yeah, and my left knee hurts.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gotta Love the Trunk Monkey

I know this is pretty old, but I still laugh every time I see it. Whoever came up with this campaign is a genius.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Washington Post Express Causes "Dismay"

If the staff of The Washington Post Express had overheard a reporter walking away from "The Gettysburg Address", they would have reported it like this:

"Wow, that was pretty good!"
-- Abraham Lincoln expresses his opinion of the Civil War

Imagine my chagrin when I read one of my favorite blogs this morning only to find that The Washington Post Express has done it again.

In today's blog entry, the witty, clever, sometimes snarky but always humorous Herb of DC reports that he got a mention in the WPE. Cool stuff. This almost always prompts commenters to congratulate you and then you go to the WPE website and download that edition so that you can have it forever. It's like you won a Grammy or something.

Now that I think of it, we should start having "After The WPE Awards" parties. Red carpets, goody bags, paparazzi, Joan Rivers... How great could that be?

There was one small issue with the part of the blog that the WPE chose to cite in their paper, though. They weren't Herb's words. In fact, the weren't actually even part of Herb's blog. They were comments left by me on a brief video that Herb wanted to share with the world.

Herb was extremely laid back about the whole episode. He said that he was "dismayed". He also included very kind words for the author of the actual citation, referring to the entry as "...very smart. Analytical. Sober." Thank you, Herb. You're a better man than I am.

Now you may think that this is a little "whoops" episode and is no big deal. In fact, in this particular case, it's probably not. Herb got recognition for his blog even if the attribution was incorrect. I got a compliment out of the whole deal. The problem is that this is not the first time the WPE has botched things up.

In what I consider a much more serious episode, Liz of WhatLizSaid fame wrote a brief but thoughtful and moving article about 9/11 on the 7th anniversary of the date we all remember. The gist of her article was that she heard people talking about where they were or what they were doing when tragedy struck on 9/11/2001, as if proximity to an event of that caliber mattered in some way. Her point, I believe, was that it simply doesn't because in the end we were all affected in a very deep way.

The Washington Post Express managed to take just a few of Liz's words out of context, and then make an editorial comment that showed that they had completely missed the entire point of her article. Their comment made Liz look like some kind of hypocritical hack when in fact the thrust of her essay was exactly the opposite of what they said. I very much fear that more people may read the WPE than actually read Liz's article, and that's just way too bad. They owe her an apology in a very big way.

Liz - I'm very sorry that the WPE did that to you.

Herb - I'm very sorry the WPE did that do you. In future comments, I will make every effort to be less smart, analytical, and certainly sober. Perhaps I'll make humorous references to bodily functions or throw in a misspelling or two.

Washington Post Express - I don't speak for all bloggers, but if you're going to be so sloppy, inattentive, haphazard, and unprofessional in what you do, then I'd simply prefer that you remove the "Blog Log" section of your "paper" entirely rather than include improper citations and editorial comments that only display the fact that you can't be bothered to actually read before you publish.

Add to Technorati Favorites